Hey there!
Let’s talk about our days…
First the big news—Tidal Flats was awarded the Gold Medal in Literary Fiction by the Independent Publisher Book Awards-so join me in a happy dance wherever you are! I was cleaning the bathrooms when I found out, which made it all the sweeter.
This morning before I started writing to you, I worked on the new novel for an hour. I begin each day that way. It keeps the story and the characters swirling around inside me, so that often when I step away from the desk to take a walk or to read, new scenes just appear. Today I finished reading through the 100 pages I have so far, and what’s clear to me is that the easy writing, if there is such a thing, is over. Time for a new layer, time to apply a little pressure, time to take it deeper. 
Years ago, I alphabetized the books in my study, but usually there are stacks and stacks of books on a long work space behind me—books I’ve just finished, books I want to write about, books I'm using for reference, books I’m not quite finished with. Eventually I shelve each one into its slot. But last week, as I picked up a book out of a stack behind me to shelve, I thought maybe this book doesn’t belong in the W’s but in this random stack created by when I was reading it and what else I was reading at the time. I started pulling books off the shelves, moved my favorite books together, and made other random stacks. I was playing with my books, as Ellen Gilchrist likes to refer to it. With my new shelves, the books are alive again. And in the process, I found Ann Patchett’s collection of essays, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, which apparently I had never finished. I skipped a few essays (something I don’t usually do) to read the title one. Which is just wonderful. Here’s a line I loved.
I can’t imagine that there is a right way to be married.

In the early days of quarantine, Pam Houston and I emailed back and forth about what it felt like to step off the travel treadmill and stay home. We talked about each other’s books and the uncertainty brought by the virus as well as the possibility for a better future. Our conversation is now online at The Rumpus, as part of their Mentor Series.
I usually prefer novels, but I loved every story in Caitlin Hamilton Summie’s debut collection, To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts. In some stories, death shines the light on what’s important and on what’s left behind. In other stories there are questions of whether to stay or to leave or to go back. But in every story, there’s family. In “Patchwork,” we’re with Sarah who’s trying to get her grandmother to spill the beans on a family member no one talks about. “Cecily. Spitfire. Flame. Turner. ‘She turned,’ Grandma had said once, ‘like milk.'” In this family, the women have a patchwork quilt. Each generation adds to it.

I am Sarah, and I will not sew my name for years. I won’t sew my name until I know who I am, can script with such confidence the identity I struggle to define, until I know, as easily, and with such simplicity, the way to be remembered.
Here’s the beginning of Caitlin’s day.
What surprises me is how much remains the same in these homebound days, but my day begins with change…  [read more]
Henri Matisse wrote, “Everything that we see in our daily life is more or less distorted by acquired habits.” In these days that continue to be the same, maybe we need to mix it up. Read a story instead of a novel. Use a different plate. Go out a different door. Instead of putting something where it goes, put it somewhere else. Instead of going through those photos one by one, maybe dump them on the floor. Have some fun. See again as if for the first time.
With this newsletter, I wish you surprises of disorder.
Stay well.
This is an email from me to you so you can write me back. Let me know how you’re spending your days.

Happy last days of May and thanks for reading.
Peace out,

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Issue #12 May 2020
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